Automotive bearings are a vital component in the efficient and smooth running of a vehicle. Mumbai-based Delux Bearings has been India’s leading manufacturer of clutch release bearings, ball bearings, pulleys and steering column bearings largely catering to the commercial vehicle segment over several decades now. Auto Tech Review caught up with Rohan Rathod, Director & CEO, Delux Bearings to know about its robust presence in the commercial vehicle segment and its new focus areas in the bearings space.
Delux Bearings is betting big on its newest product – pneumatically actuated clutch release bearings – that were showcased at the recently-concluded Auto Expo – Components. These bearings can be pneumatically actuated for heavy duty cycles with doubly extended product reliability, and offers a lifetime run of 100,000-200,000 km. Compared to a typical release bearing for trucks, these bearings eliminate the complete clutch actuation mechanism, making all into one.
The company has also made provisions to mount sensors on these bearings. That would allow automatic actuation through the intelligence of the engine and transmission. The sensor will dictate when the shift should be made – thus reducing shift time – and has the capability of finding out if the vehicle is going uphill or downhill, explained Rathod. It will be commercially available in 12 months, he said.
Bearings essentially transmit load and reduce friction. But there are always frictional losses within the bearing that are contributed by rollers, balls, cages, lubrication, etc. These are inherent within the design of the bearing, Rathod explained. The challenge lies in reducing internal frictions. The company is carrying out innovations on the existing types of bearings a typical car would use, not just in the powertrain but in the wheels and other areas and how it can increase those efficiencies, the Delux CEO observed.
FOCUS ON R&D, ENGINEERING
On the R&D front, Delux adopts a ‘studio method’ that is unlike a typical R&D set-up. Its R&D activities have engineers, robotics and graphic designers all sitting in the same room. Rathod is striving to bring a flavour of his strong overseas experience in architecture at Delux. “Such collaborative R&D provides us a competitive edge and also ensures our products are aesthetically more appealing than typical products,” he said.
The company revamped its development process and introduced a lot of simulation software that enabled it to predict and prevent instead of doing trial and error. This simulation software helped plug small issues that can typically cause a delay of six months during prototyping, he said. The company is also implementing Windchill PLM for its product data management. All its plants have access to the entire library of components that they can share in the design phase. It also uses software that is similar to Nomax for calculating scenarios within which a bearing has to perform. This has enabled the company to understand the dynamics of the product in a virtual condition before it is prototyped.
The company has high focus on efficient manufacturing and has already started piloting Industry 4.0 at its factories. It has installed computer and distance screens at some of its machines for monitoring. One can check out on their phones what is the OEE (overall equipment efficiency) of the machine; the level and reasons for operator rejection; the failure mode for that rejection – all these will ensure a level of interconnectedness in manufacturing and ultimately bring down unit economics, Rohan pointed out.
The country’s move to electric mobility will render many bearings redundant. Typically, an IC powertrain or driveline needs around 30 to 42 components, but an electric powertrain would need around 7 to 10 components only. Clutch, clutch bearing, some gearbox bearings as well as some bearings in the propeller shaft will turn redundant, Rathod highlighted. What happens to these players who are supplying these bearings and how their capacities will be utilised is a big question, wondered Rathod.
With a robust commercial vehicle market presence, Delux is now bullish about tapping into the hugely untapped passenger vehicle market. Many top Indian carmakers like Maruti Suzuki India, Honda Cars India and Hyundai Motor India are still importing release bearings. Delux wants to replicate its CV success in the PV segment. The company has bagged orders from Mahindra for one of its UV platforms, and is close to sealing a deal with PSA Group for clutch release bearings, intimated Rohan.
Delux generates around 60 % of its revenue from OEMs and exports, while the remaining 40 % comes from the aftermarket. The company grew by 10 % last year and is expected to grow by 15 % this year. Delux aims to double its turnover by 2020 on the back of its soon-to-be rolled out pneumatic actuated clutch release bearings and the untapped PV market.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua